Before you file for divorce, you probably want to know how long it’s going to take. There are many factors that go into answering this question, from the relevant law in your state, to how overloaded your local court and clerk’s office are, to the particularities of your case.
Let’s break it down so that you know what to expect.
Where you live
Where you live impacts how long you’ll wait for a divorce decree in a number of ways.
First of all, many states have a mandatory waiting period which represents the absolute minimum amount of time that your dissolution of marriage will take. In some states, this means an amount of time for which you must be separated before you can even start a divorce.
In others, the law requires a minimum amount of time between when a petition for dissolution is first filed or the respondent spouse is served and when a judge will actually issue a final decree of divorce.
Where you live can also be a factor with regard to how bloated your local court system is. In a lot of places, you may even have to rely upon multiple court systems, as a general superior court judge will issue your divorce order, but first an entirely separate family court will make a ruling on the substance of your complaint for divorce (e.g. whether fault was proven, how marital property should be divided, a plan for custody and visitation, etc.).
Bottlenecks can also occur in the clerk’s office before your paperwork ever makes it in front of a judge. Unfortunately, this part of the process is truly out of your control, so just try to make good use of this time preparing for your divorce hearing.
How well you and your spouse are communicating
In an ideal world, you and your spouse would be on the same page enough to cooperate fully, and your divorce would run more smoothly than your marriage did.
Unfortunately, we know that this isn’t always the case. It’s never fun to be on the receiving end of legal service, but emotions run so high when it comes to ending a marriage, that divorce service can present particular challenges.
In extreme cases, once the divorce petition is filed, it might take one spouse a while to find the other in order to serve them.
The best you can do is make a good faith effort to communicate clearly and kindly with your spouse so that the divorce papers don’t come as a surprise.
If you begin these conversations before filing for divorce, hopefully your spouse will have some time to process the news before it comes time to serve them.
Maybe your spouse hasn’t gone into hiding to avoid legal service, but your communication is lacking enough that you think your marital finances could use some illuminating. This is where forensic accountants come in.
They will help you and your spouse figure out exactly what the two of you have and owe, so that your divorce doesn’t become a case of he said she said.
Professionals like this can be enormously helpful, but seeking their services can sometimes increase the overall amount of time between filing the petition and obtaining a final decree.
Method of dispute resolution
Perhaps the biggest single factor in how long divorce takes is the method of dispute resolution that you and your spouse choose.
Your options can be broken down into three major categories: litigation, mediation, or DIY negotiation.
In litigation, you and your spouse each hire a divorce lawyer and head to court. Generally speaking, litigation will take the longest -- you’re looking at a minimum of about a year (it’s also usually the most expensive).
For some particularly contentious divorces, litigation is truly the only option, despite its downsides, but you can still mitigate the amount of time it will take to get divorced by choosing the right law firm.
In a healthy attorney-client relationship, your lawyer won’t just be on your side against your spouse, they’ll be on your side against the clock as well. Thus, when you’re visiting law offices looking for the right attorney for you, you shouldn’t be afraid to communicate your goal of keeping the divorce process as efficient as possible.
Mediation tends to take a bit less time than litigation, mostly because you and your spouse have to have already agreed to work together, plus you won’t be relying on an overtaxed court system.
Generally speaking, you will spend about two to six months reaching a settlement agreement, which may or may not put you over your state’s mandatory waiting period.
As an offshoot to mediation, you might also want to look into collaborative divorce, which is a similar process, but with a team of professionals (including family law attorneys to give legal advice, accountants to assess and divide assets, mental health professionals to take care of you, and child specialists to take care of your kids).
Collaborative divorce does not generally require much more time at the negotiating table, but it’s sometimes challenging to find time in which the entire team is available, so you can expect it to take slightly longer than traditional mediation for that reason alone.
The fastest divorce method by far is the DIY divorce. If you and your spouse opt to take matters into your own hands, you can exert much more control over the process, including setting the pace.
You’ll still be subject to your state’s mandatory waiting period (if any), and you will still have to wait for your documents to be processed after they are filed, but in most jurisdictions you won’t ever need to appear in court.
It’s important to note, however, that the process can be delayed if you end up intimidated or confused by all of the legal paperwork, which would be perfectly understandable -- after all, you’re not a lawyer!
But don’t rush in and hire an attorney yet, because this is where It’s Over Easy can really help. We offer simple, streamlined uncontested online divorces, where we replace the complicated legal forms with a plain English questionnaire.
It costs between $750 and $1500 depending on the local requirements where you live, and you will never have to factor in a single filing fee -- that price covers it all.
How complicated is your case?
No matter which method of dissolution you and your spouse are employing, the more intertwined your lives are, the more lengthy the untangling process will be.
On the simplest end of the spectrum, if you and your spouse were married for only a short period of time, never had children, and are not seeking spousal support, you may be eligible for something called a summary dissolution, which is basically an abbreviated divorce process.
In general, the existence of children of the marriage definitely makes for a longer divorce. This makes sense -- the two of you need to sort out a whole host of additional issues like parenting time, custody, and child support.
Sometimes the facts of your case determine the duration of your divorce by dictating which methods of negotiation are available to you in the first place. For instance, if one party wants to prove fault, then you’re stuck with the litigation route.
Additionally, DIY divorce is not available if you are undergoing a contested divorce.
Why uncontested divorce takes less time
This is pretty straightforward. A contested divorce just means that you and your spouse disagree on the issues, and you therefore need the court to help with the decision making.
If you’re spending time fighting over custody, that’s time that you’re not getting the final papers filed. That’s why if timing is a big concern for you, you want to do everything in your power to get on the same page with your spouse.
Besides, you started this process because you wanted to regain your independence, and a contested divorce makes you reliant on the court system, which is not a good feeling.
Look into uncontested divorce today!
Everybody wants to save time, money, and stress whenever possible. Undergoing an uncontested divorce is the ultimate act of kindness that parting spouses can show each other.
It honors what the two of you once had and welcomes what each of you will become.
Get started with your online uncontested divorce today.